Some Say Men, But I Say No

August 13, 2010

Lately I’ve been wondering what the long-term effects of the women’s rights movement have really been on America.

Now, before defending to me my rights to vote, and pointing out the many freedoms I enjoy as a modern female, hear me out. I actually consider myself to be a feminist. I’m not going to say it was a one step forward; two steps back situation. More like society took two steps forward; right off the map.

The past hundred years can be seen as a cold war between the sexes– an arms race where each side stockpiles with a smile. “Anything you can do, I can do better,” and that “Men are From Mars, Women are from Venus,” are now a given. From the inception of women’s suffrage,  the genders have been inherently pitted against each other in the public mind. Separate. But equal.

Does anyone really believe that to be the case?

In entering what we decidedly refer to as “a man’s world” during the 20th century, womankind came  to assume the responsibility of professional success– that is to say, she put on a mans suit, walked into a mans office, and demanded the respect of the men around her.

Woman was ready to prove that she was strong, intelligent, and prepared to be everything that man had been for so long. She wanted to drink their scotch, talk their sports, and smoke their cigars. Arguably, women didn’t want to be equal: they wanted to be men. In an attempt to earn man’s respect (which, in and of itself seems to undermine the concept of the movement) she toned down her sex appeal; she put her heels on the floor; and made it clear that she was nothing– NOTHING– like her toilet-scrubbing, pot scouring brethren.

The true tragedy of the “battle of the sexes,” in my observation, is that modern woman seems more in competition with her sisters than anything. Instead of standing together, women have unwittingly divided and conquered ourselves. My argument here, as someone who has studied other primates eagerly, will be that our gender has been unable to fully assume the archaic male conceptualization of solitude. We just aren’t wired for it.

I am, of course, still a proponent of conscious evolution. But the fact of the matter is that we are animals, and in nearly every species on the planet– our closest genetic cousins very much included– males mate, males protect, males compete for alpha. Males operate in self-preservation mode. Females, for their part, tend to form family-like nodes, take care of each other, and raise children. There is competition for female alpha, but it tends to be much less war-like, and based more in a group “respect” and seniority. Women do not compete in the physically obvious ways men do, it’s a much more socially interactive structure– what each female has to offer the group determines their status. This may help explain the way women, often without bad intent, seem to be constantly judging each other.

The crux in these organizations being that the females generally determine the alpha male of the group. Although males are physically dominant and seem to weld the power, the balance of the social dynamic rests in the willingness of the females to be dominated by a certain male. In a strange way, it’s nearly democracy. Check out Iroquois tribe structures for similar findings.

Humanity has attempted to thwart natural order, in the curious way we do. It seem to me, and I am speaking primarily in Western cultures, that from the time mankind had the revelation that women were, in fact, great bearers of power (if only for being bearers of future generations), they attempted to harness and control womankind.

Lust became sin. Woman came to represent temptation, weakness, and the harbinger of evil to the garden of Eden. In shifting the psychology of our biology, men did their best to subjugate femininity.

This attitude has prevailed for thousands of years, replicated in politics and religion alike. A woman who uses her natural-born sexuality– her biological gift of power– is considered a hussy, an opportunist, and is somehow rationalized to be less successful for “self-exploitation.” On the flip side, a woman who chooses to stay at home, raise a family, and has her husband generating income is, however silently, still judged.

In contemporary culture, men seem confused about what women want. And I am starting to realize that’s due in large part to women’s confusion about our roles in this new era. What is the measure of success for a woman? What is the measure of success for a man? Are they the same? What does a man provide a woman? What does a woman provide a man? Are they the same?

I don’t have the answers. What I do have is something that my mother (a perfect product of her generation’s gender identity crisis, having grown up in one of the only single-parent homes on her block at the time) told me during my formative years. Something her mother told her, and something that I consider the best advice for maintaining a relationship in a cultural period where even defining the word “is” has proven difficult.

Mama bear never ever told me “don’t trust a man.”

She advised I don’t depend on one.

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3 Responses to “Some Say Men, But I Say No”

  1. Vix Says:

    But I don’t want to be the same as a man. I want to be better.

  2. SweetChuck Says:

    There is a great book, “Tripping the Prom Queen” about how women compete with each other…


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